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Thursday, February 27, 2020

5 NFL players with the most to gain over the final two weeks

Mitchell Trubisky

It may be hard to believe, but there are just two weeks remaining in the 2019 regular season. For some players, there is more on the line over the final two weeks than others. These last two games could be the difference between a massive contract and a one-year prove-it deal or, in some cases, the difference between playing again or being forced into retirement.

Here’s a look at five players with the most to gain over the final two weeks.

5. Garett Bolles, OT, Denver Broncos

Those in Denver appear to be at a breaking point with the former first-round pick out of Utah. Bolles has been a model for inconsistency over his first three seasons. He has frequently struggled with basic technique and, as a result, racked up a laundry list of penalties, including 12 holding penalties this season (five accepted). However, over the previous three weeks, Bolles appears to have finally broken some ground and played completely mistake-free football. It’s the first time he’s shown the Broncos he’s capable of remaining a starting tackle. If he can play well over the final two weeks, he will force Denver into a difficult decision about whether to pick up a $9-10 million fifth-year option for 2021 or not.

4. Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Buccaneers

It’s been an up-and-down season for Winston, which is a trend that seems to manifest each time he plays. At times, Winston looks like an All-Pro. At others, he looks like a guy who should be in some other line of work. As a result, there has been a lot of speculation about Winston’s future and whether or not Tampa Bay is the right fit for him. Either way, Winston needs to show up over the final two weeks of the season and show some level of consistency if he wants to sell the Buccaneers on keeping him around for 2020 (or beyond), or convincing another team to take a flier on him.

3. Vic Beasley Jr., DE, Atlanta Falcons

Beasley was rumored to be on the market ahead of the NFL trading deadline, but he drew very little interest from contending teams — for good reason. After leading the NFL in sacks in 2016 (15.5), the edge rusher has essentially fallen off the map. He recorded just five sacks in both 2017 and 2018, and entering December of this season, had logged just four sacks. However, in the last two games, Beasley has gotten hot and recorded three sacks, bringing his season total to seven. In a league that pays big money for edge rushers, Beasley stands to earn a good chunk of change if he can continue his hot streak over the final two weeks of the season and enter free agency with a double-digital total for 2019.

2. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, San Francisco 49ers

After several down years in Denver, Sanders was traded to the 49ers earlier this year amid much fanfare. He’s made the most of that opportunity, reminding those around the league that he’s still an explosive player capable of making an impact offensively, but he’s still on pace to fall short of some of his career-highs. After just a nine-yard performance against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15, Sanders now has only two games to get back on track and potentially reach the 1,000-yard mark, which will dramatically increase his value heading into free agency. And at 32 years old, this is likely Sanders’ final opportunity earn a multi-year deal with a solid salary, so he’s got two more games to earn the most amount of money possible.

1. Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Chicago Bears

For a moment earlier this year, the Trubisky era in Chicago appeared destined to end. He was benched at one point this season (later attributed to a hip injury), but returned a week later and has remarkably played much better since. However, Trubisky still needs to play well (if not at much higher level) over the final two weeks of the season if he wishes to convince the Bears that picking up his fifth-year option worth more than $24 million is a prudent move. Yes, Chicago could move on from him without a dead cap hit if they were to pick up his option and he later suffered an injury, but if not, they would be tied to Trubisky and his massive salary for an additional year. That’s a difficult position Chicago may wish to avoid, but if the quarterback can go out and continue his hot streak (a two-interception game against the Packers not withstanding), he may earn himself a cool $24 million-plus.


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